Monthly Archives: July 2013

Foodie Penpal from Chicagoland!


This month’s Foodie Penpal box came from Ashley of My Cats and I (Cooking) in Chi. When I found out that Ashley was from Chicago, I told her that if she could somehow ship some hot fries from Pops for Champagne, that my husband would be forever grateful. 😉

From our email exchanges, Ashley and I found that we have a lot in common. We both love trying new restaurants and admit that we dine out more often than our waistlines and wallets can handle. She even gave me some recommendations for new restaurants to try the next time we travel to or through Chicagoland. I also found another person who doesn’t like a ton of bacon in dishes like me! {I seriously thought I was the only one with all the blank stares I get when I mention that.}

So what was in the box? Well, let’s just take a look:


Ashley dubbed this a Reduced Guilt package!

Skinny Pop Popcorn – Mmm. No artificial anything! This stuff is good and coated with just the right amount of salt. “Popped Skinny in the USA,” the company hails from Chicago.

Trader Joe’s Mini Milk Chocolate Bars – For my chocolate fix. It was 90+ degrees in the Midwest when our boxes went out this month. I didn’t think about this until moments after I shipped my FPP recipient’s box! I worried about melted chocolate all over her goodies! I quickly sent her a warning/apology email. Soon after, I received an email from Ashley stating that she had included some chocolate, not thinking about the hot weather and hoped it wouldn’t be all over the box. {See how much alike we are?!} It was nothing the refrigerator couldn’t fix! These separately-wrapped 100 calories bars are heaven.

Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Brownie Mix – This one makes me laugh. Whenever a Foodie Penpal {you are assigned to new people every month} asks me about my preferences and if I am okay with homemade or baked goods, I explain that I like both healthy and indulgent treats because I believe that any food can be part of a healthy diet as long as it is in moderation. Then I add, “That being said, when it comes to baked goods, if you send me a brownie, I’ll eat it. But if you send me a plate of brownies, I’ll probably eat those in one sitting, too.” Moderation is tough for me when it comes to baked goods. It’s why I don’t usually bake. So, then, why did Ashley send these to me?

Because you can use the mix to make ONE BROWNIE AT A TIME!

Genius. In fact, I’ve since dumped the mix into a jar with the {simple} directions on top, so I can make myself my own hot brownie anytime. YAY!


Wonderful Pistachios {single serving pack} – Nuts are one of my favorite snacks. And I still think I might be the only one on the planet that can’t stop laughing at this Crackin’ Gangnam Style pistachio commercial. 😉

Also included was, as she mentioned in her note, one of Ashley’s favorite breakfast recipes for Blueberry Banana Pie Overnight Oats along with the Pecan Praline Granola and Chia Seeds needed in the recipe. I just had to make it!


Sooo good. I only made half the recipe at a time and it came out just fine. Since then, I’ve also eaten the granola as cereal with banana or peaches added. And do you know how long I’ve been meaning to buy and try out chia seeds?! Now I’m just looking for some more fun recipes and uses for them.

None of those items have I previously picked up at Trader Joe’s. And I may have even passed them by in the future if Ashley hadn’t introduced them to me!

Thank you, Ashley for a not only wonderful and tasty, but also thoughtful package.

I loved {and am still loving} it!

Thinking you want to become a Foodie Penpal? You don’t even need to be a blogger to do it! Here’s how:

1. Sign up by the 4th of the month that you want to participate.

2. On the 5th of the month, you are assigned a Foodie Penpal.

3. You communicate with your penpal about any food allergies or preferences, as well as where to ship the package.

4. By the 15th of the month, send $15 worth of food to your penpal that may include homemade goodies, local treats or just some of your favorite discoveries that you want to share! The box must also contain something handwritten.

5. You’ll receive a package from another Foodie Penpal, who was assigned to you.

6. If you are like me, you squeal with delight when your package arrives.

7. You enjoy said goodies, which you may have never known about otherwise.

8. If you are a blogger, you post about the package you received on the last day of the month – Reveal Day! {If you are not a blogger, you do not need to do anything, but thank your Penpal, of course! However, if your Penpal does blog, you can choose to write a guest post, if you so wish.}

What are your favorite recipes for/uses of chia seeds?


Couch to 5k – Week 2


Pain vs. Fatigue

Last year, when I started running, I learned to push through a lot. I found that running, for me, was 80% mental. There are many times when I’d think, I can’t do this. I’m tired. I have to stop.”

I’ve had to work through a lot mentally to keep going. I’ve had to change my thoughts. I’ve learned to persevere. I’ve kept going with side aches/stiches, when the shoulder strap of my bra broke, when I had diarrhea {sorry!} during the first mile of my second ever trial of running five miles, with a toenail almost ripped off {taped up}, when it rained, with a cold… These are all things that I would have used as an excuse before.

The big difference this time around with running was that I decided not to use these things as excuses. I decided to push through them. They’re more mental than physical. They’re minor. And after my run was complete, I thought about how I normally would not have even gone for a walk if I thought it might rain. And now I love running in the rain!

But there is a difference between fatigue and pain.

I am no doctor, but I am here to tell you that if you are experiencing real pain, not just fatigue, you need to STOP. This is what my husband had to do this week.

Couch to 5k – Week 2

With Week 1 behind us, I reminded Rob that I wanted him to go ahead of me if he felt the need because I wanted him to get the most out of this experience – no holding back. Besides, I told him, when I ran behind him, that meant I could look at his cute butt.  😉

Day 1 – Tuesday

  • 5 minute warm-up
  • Run 60 seconds
  • Walk 90 seconds
  • Run 90 seconds
  • Walk 90 seconds
  • Repeat run-walk sequence 4 more X
  • 5 minute cool-down

I followed him around the neighborhood, but the route he took was a little rough. I knew we would end up going uphill for a good portion of the run-walk. When I go uphill, I tend to slow down, if only to conserve my energy. I’m such a wuss when I’m on the treadmill because I don’t usually do inclines; but when I do, I can change them if they are “too hard”. {So much for excuses, right?}

But at one point during this session’s running intervals, I saw that Rob didn’t start running on the prompt. He just kept walking. And he did that for the remaining intervals. Then at one point, he turned down the road to go home, even though we had more time left than road.

I knew something was wrong.

Even from a distance, I could tell that he wasn’t just fatigued. I turned down another road so that I could finish the workout. Then I headed home for the cool down.


I found him at home lying down. It was his knee. He had tweaked something. He knew he couldn’t continue. And I’m so glad he didn’t. Just walking home was painful for him. He was angry. He didn’t want to be set back. But I knew he had to rest. The most frustrating part for him?

He’s never had knee issues before.

I did the rest of the week on my own. Rob said he now knew how I felt when I had back pain and then was recovering from surgery. When you see other people running, you just get jealous. “They are just showing off! he said.

Day 2 – Thursday

  • (Same as Day 1)

After my first interval of running, I thought, “I feel great! That wasn’t too bad.” Then I realized, the next interval would be longer. And maybe I wasn’t pushing that hard because Rob wasn’t ahead of me. He really did seem to push me! Each interval felt a little different. Some were easier, some were very difficult. It was a little strange. I couldn’t get into a groove. But does that even matter? I finished it.


*For the record, I mapped the route I took online and it measured approximately 2.55 miles. I followed the same route on Day 3, so that I could see how inconsistent the GPS really is.

Day 3 – Saturday

  • (Same as Day 1 & 2)

What a freaking beautiful day! I didn’t get out there until about 9:30, but it was 61 degrees! July and 61 degrees? I’m not complaining. Again, each interval felt different, but I got back feeling pretty wiped. So for me, that was a success. Actually, I started thinking about how good my back has felt… that I really haven’t noticed it. In fact, lately, I’ve been grateful for all of the things I can do now that I couldn’t when I was having back pain and while I was recovering from back surgery. Those little things matter!


I followed the same route as Day 2. And although, my measurement when I map it out on is 2.55 miles. The distance calculated with the GPS of this App was consistent for the two days. On Monday, even though we followed a different route, the App indicates that I completed more mileage. If the App is truly consistent, then the proof is in the pudding that I pushed myself harder when Rob was ahead of me!

Rob is resting his knee, but I know he is very frustrated. It was getting better throughout the week. However, the recovery has come to a stand still. He’ll be resting it further this week and most likely making an appointment with the doctor if he doesn’t see any change.

How do you avoid an injury?

Have you ever been injured while working out?

What do you do for cardio to keep moving and your heart rate up while injured?



All the Boxes


Subscription Box Saturday: All the Boxes Edition

Here are all of the Subscription Boxes I received in July, in the order I received them. Apologies for the poor picture quality, but you get the point.



Birchbox – July 2013

Last month, I wasn’t too thrilled with my beauty boxes. In fact, this month, I skipped the Beauty Army box. But this month’s Birchbox made me smile.

  • Kérastase Bain Chroma Riche (Shampoo)
  • WEI™ Pomegranate Buffing Beads (Add to your own face wash)
  • WEI™ Golden Root Purifying Mud Mask
  • Kérastase Masque Chroma Riche (Conditioner)
  • DDF® Acne Control Treatment
  • Pür Minerals CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 40


Love with Food


Lots of yum!

  • Twangerz Snack Toppings – Different flavored salts.
  • KuKuRuZa GMO-Free Gourmet Caramel Popcorn – Rob said it is likely the best CaramelCorn he’s ever had!
  • Vermont Smoke & Cure BBQ Beef Sticks – I’m not a barbecue fan, nor do I eat beef sticks very often. For Rob.
  • Lord Nut Levington Spicy Bloody Mary Peanuts – Tasted great, but not sure Bloody Mary is the descriptor I’d use.
  • Angel Mint All Natural Salt Water Taffy
  • Uncle Henry’s Pretzel Bakery Pretzel – Just a big, dry pretze.l
  • Nature’s Bakery Strawberry Fig Bar – High calorie, tastes like you’d expect.
  • NECCO Candy Wafers – Some people may find these nostalgic. They were too chalky for me.




Two different kinds of treats, a travel water bowl, smoothie for dogs, barkworthy chew & a squeaky toy. This was happy, happy box for the pooches this month!



  • Fruit Water
  • Cosmo Creations Caramel Corn – Wait! Maybe this one was Rob’s favorite!?
  • Multi-seed Crackers – I’ve had these before and love ’em
  • Cherry Chews – A cross between jelly beans and fruit snacks. I liked that there were different cherry flavors!
  • Real Corn Chips – What corn chips should taste like.

Those are the current boxes I subscribe to. To enroll in any, click the links below.

  • Love with Food – $10/mo + $2 shipping
  • Birchbox – $10/mo (includes shipping)
  • BarkBox – $29/mo (or $19/mo when sign up for 6 months) I love this box, but I think $29 is kind of expensive. The 6 months is worth it to save $10/mo!
  • Goodies – $7/mo (includes shipping)
  • Beauty Army -$12/mo – I’m might discontinue. You can skip any month you wish. I did, only because I didn’t like the choices

I have tried other boxes as well. Here are those that I’ve discontinued.

Do you subscribe to any boxes or of-the-month clubs? Which one(s)?


Drink Me: Pinot Gris


I can’t lie, I stole this title idea from my grapefriend. But I also like how it rhymes. And I’m also here to tell you, it’s summer and you should be drinking Pinot Gris!

Pinot Gris is often forgotten. When my friend Stacy and I enjoy wine together, it’s almost always red. However, when I saw it on a menu when the two of us dined at the Redwood Room this weekend {stay tuned tomorrow!}, I asked for a taste.

Oh, Pinot Gris, how did I forget you?!

This little beauty was so good, we ordered a bottle. I usually think that most of the more affordable bottles in a restaurant are mediocre… at best. This wine is an exception! We were pleasantly surprised.

Four Graces Pinot Gris - Willamette Valley {pronounced will-AM-met, damn it!}, Oregon

Four Graces Pinot Gris – Willamette Valley {pronounced will-AM-it, damn it!}, Oregon

So what’s the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio? Well, they are actually the same grape. It’s just called Pinot Gris in French and Pinot Grigio in Italian.

However, the style of wine is usually different. Pinot Grigios from Italy are light, crisp and acidic with lots of citrus notes. The Pinot Gris I drink from France tend to be rounder, less acidic with more fruit and floral notes shining through. Some of that is due to the cooler climate – the terroir, if you will.

In the wine world, Pinot Gris/Grigio is oftened labeled in other regions according to the traditional style it is most like. Many in California are labeled Pinot Grigio, while those in the cooler, northern state of Oregon are labeled Pinot Gris. Winemakers can still label Pinots as they wish, but I’ve found this is a good indicator when you are looking for the style you like!

I have been reunited with my love of Pinot Gris – a perfect summer white wine!

If you’ve had both, which style do you prefer? Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio?

What’s your favorite summer white wine {or other refreshing beverage}?


Couch to 5k – Week 1


Ease into 5k…

That is what our App is called. But I’m not feeling like I’m easing. This is much harder than I remember. Well, I remember the Couch to 5k being difficult having never been a runner before. But having run several 5ks last year, I didn’t think it’d be THIS hard.

What’s more is that when, a little over a week ago, I was finishing the last two legs of my LOST Running series on the treadmill and in the Color Run, I did throw a little bit of running in there. And it felt GREAT! I couldn’t wait to get started with the Couch to 5k again. It’s been seven months since I’d last run and four + months since my back surgery.

For those of you who may be new to running, for those of you runners who can offer any advice and for my own journaling purposes, I’m going to post this Couch to 5k experience each week, recapping the week before. Here goes!

Couch to 5k – Week 1

My husband decided that he wanted to give the Couch to 5k a try himself. He thought it would be fun to run together. I agreed.

Day 1 – Monday

  • 5 minute warm-up
  • Run 60 seconds, Walk 90 seconds X 9
  • 5 minute cool-down

Getting ready for a run always seems to take me a bit longer than I expect. I sometimes dilly-dally when I’m getting dressed, getting my iPhone and earbuds ready, etc. I’m not sure why this is. On our first run out, we tried to get our Apps in sync so that we’d be running at the same time. Sure, we could have just used one and done it together, but I didn’t know if we’d stick together.

Good thing.

On the first “Run” prompt, Rob darted off way ahead of me. Now, it took me a long time to fancy myself a runner. I’ve always been slow. But slow is better than nothing. At first, his darting ahead got to me. How can he go so fast when he hasn’t done any running in many years? In fact, I don’t remember any time he’s run since I’ve known him.

Then I had to remind myself that I need to stop comparing. I had just healed from back surgery. I need to take this thing slow. I need to ease back into running. This is about my progress. Also, I didn’t want him to back off because of me.

In fact, after that first running interval, he turned around and walked back toward me. “No!” I yelled, “You’ll mess up your route!” What I meant by this is that the App prompts you when you are half way done, so all that you need to do is turn around and head back where you started. That wouldn’t be the case if he was backtracking.

Still, I made a point to tell him that he should run the pace with which he feels comfortable and not hold back to stick with me. I wanted him to benefit from the program and get out as much of it as he could, too.

The funny thing? Rob didn’t turn around at the half-way mark, but I kept trailing behind him anyway. And somehow, someway, with the route he picked, we made it home almost exactly at the end of the cool down segment. How’d he do that?

photo 1I’m taking the mileages and paces with a grain of salt, here. I know how GPS apps can be inconsistent. However, this is the indicator that my workout is complete! I did run harder than what I normally would have because I was trailing Rob. He was running them like true intervals, meaning running hard during the “run” portion, not just jogging.

Day 2 – Thursday

  • (Same as Day 1)

On day 2, it was 96 degrees. I thought we might get to test out our new treadmill and run separately, indoors. However, Rob suggested we run at park near us. I couldn’t believe my ears when he said that. Rob hates being outside when it’s this hot and now he wanted to run?! I made sure to hydrate myself appropriately.

It was a great idea! The random paths at the park were short and we just made our own routes, returning to the car at the same time. Because of the trees, we were in the shade much of the time and there was a slight breeze. I actually enjoyed it. And I felt great afterward, despite the heat! This app lets you input a journal entry at the end of each run:

photo 2

Day 3 – Saturday

  • (Same as Day 1 & 2)

In general, we had planned to do our Saturday morning runs outside of the neighborhood. We know that there are plenty of lakes, parks and trails in the Twin Cities and we plan to take advantage of them! However, this Saturday, we were a little slow-moving. After coffee and a walk to the Farmer’s Market, we decided just to stick close to home.

Again, I was pushing it a little harder than normal because Rob was in the distance. {That will end up being a great training tool!} This time, I really started to lose steam by the last running interval. I think I need to find a slower pace as the running intervals get longer.

photo 4If the mileages and paces are anywhere near correct, it looks like I made a little progress! But again, I’ll take those with a grain of salt.

Week 1 Complete!

Do you prefer to run/workout with others or by yourself and why?


High Protein Dinners?


I’m looking for some more ideas for high-protein recipes to make my husband for dinners. There’s only so much you can do with just beef and pork before it can get boring.

These are a few favorites that I have recently tucked in my arsenal:

Then there are few that I want to try out on him! Although, some of these are chicken dishes. Unless I am dining alone, I plan to substitute pork for the chicken in those receipes for Rob. What do you think?

I’m in search of more high protein recipes! While beef and pork ones are preferred to keep them Rob-friendly, I am working on adapting chicken ones to pork, too!

Have you tried any of the recipes above? If so, what do you think?

What are your favorite beef, pork or other high protein recipes?